Alumni Spotlight

Gabriela Perez was UCR Religious Studies Major and currently a Master’s student at Harvard Divinity School

The highlight of my first semester at Harvard Divinity School was taking a class on biographies of religious figures in American history, with David Holland. The class ended on Tuesday, but I am still thinking about narrativizing religious lives, human agency, and American History. Although a quiet semester, it’s been full of exciting new ideas and conversations. When I wasn’t reading George Marsden’s 500-page biography on Jonathan Edwards, I let my love for coffee grow to its full extent by trying out new coffee houses around the Boston area.

Rutdow Jiraprapasuke is another of our former UCR Religious Studies majors who is also now studying at Harvardl

Currently, I’m at Harvard Divinity School working on my Masters, with a focus in Buddhist Studies. In addition, I am currently producing a documentary film on female monasticism in the Theravada world. As part of a diverse group of Buddhist scholars, I have co-founded an academic community that focuses on having discourse on how Buddhists approach or should approach major social issues such as: Race, Gender Equality, Incarceration and Capitalism. I also work on campus for Innovative Ministry in which we try to respond to spiritual communities whom are not affiliated with religion. Having majored in Religious Studies and having supportive mentors at UCR, has broaden my own perception of life’s possibilities and has afforded me opportunities to be part of a community of change at Harvard Divinity School.

Undergraduate Student Research Spotlight

Aldo Martinez is a senior who majors in Religious Studies. He has recently taken his learning abroad through various UCR programs, spending time in Europe and Asia.

The opportunity to travel to Rome in the summer as a Religious Studies major was truly an unforgettable experience. By studying abroad in Rome I not only travelled and learned but I also got to experience first-hand what it was that I was learning. It’s a whole different thing when you are actually in the city you are studying! It gives you a whole different perspective. It’s not the same thing studying Christianity, or any other religion, from a book compared to being present in the Vatican. The experience is incomparable. I think studying abroad should be a must for every Religious Studies major because of the fact that it exposes you to other cultures, places and people and it literally makes the world your classroom!

Graduate Student Research Spotlight

Cristina Rosetti is a Doctoral Candidate in Religious Studies whose research examines neglected histories of Mormonism

This summer I began ethnographic fieldwork and archival research in several cities across the state of Utah. My archival work was based in the Church History Library and Harold B. Lee Library Special Collections. My research centered on the period of Brigham Young’s Presidency (1847-1877), including Young’s personal correspondence and diaries, as well as diaries and letters from individuals who participated in dissenting Mormon movements. Particular attention was given to the Godbeite movement, the life of Amasa M. Lyman, and the practice of spirit communication in early Mormonism. In addition to work in the archive, I spent a large portion of the summer conducting ethnographic research with Mormons who are actively participating in religious practices that both engage the tradition of spirit communication and call into question the nature of spiritual authority within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The image below was taken during an immersion ceremony at a retreat I attended in September. During the ceremony, women stood in the river singing hymns directed to the divine feminine while immersing one another in a ritual similar to baptism. This ceremony is indicative of the ways in which LDS women use subversive religious practices to garner spiritual authority in their lives.

Faculty Spotlight

The Department is proud to introduce Dr. Melissa Wilcox, the new holder of the Holstein Family and Community Chair in Religious Studies, to the UCR community.

The newest member of the Religious Studies faculty, Professor Melissa M. Wilcox, specializes in queer studies in religion, primarily in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. “Looking back over my career to date,” she explains, “I can see that I’ve always been interested in sacrilege. At first, I was asking questions about what it means to be declared sacrilegious by one’s religious tradition, and how people respond to that experience. Based on those questions, I published my first two books on queer Christians [Coming Out in Christianity, 2003] and on spirituality among queer women [Queer Women and Religious Individualism, 2009]. But I’ve become increasingly interested in the intentional mobilization of sacrilege, often by people who don’t themselves consider their actions sacrilegious but who see some value in co-opting or directly challenging the terms of sacrilege.”

From these interests have come her current book project, entitled Serious Parody: Religion, Queer Activism, and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (expected 2017), which focuses on a religiously-unaffiliated, international order of self-described “queer nuns,” and her nascent next project on the use of religious roles and imagery in queer erotica, pornography, and BDSM. “The idea for the new project started with the Orthodox Calendar,” she says, referring not to the liturgical calendar of the Eastern Orthodox churches but to an erotic calendar created by Orthodox Christians to draw attention to the challenges faced by LGBTIQ people in Eastern Orthodox countries.

As the new holder of the Holstein Family and Community Chair in Religious Studies, Professor Wilcox is looking forward to implementing the department’s vision that the chair’s work should focus on religion and social justice, in line not only with UCR’s current priorities but also with the passions and life work of Robert and Loretta Holstein. Professor Wilcox envisions holding annual gatherings, provisionally entitled “Holstein Conversations in Community,” that bring together activists, artists, academics, and other community leaders to discuss the complex roles of religion in social justice issues.

Each year’s Conversation in Community will focus on a specific topic. For instance, plans are in the works for an event in either winter or spring quarter of 2017 that will bring people together to share ideas on religion and social justice under President-elect Trump. Most likely, Wilcox says, the event will focus on justice for immigrants and refugees, and the roles of religion in such concerns, ranging from religion creating a need for asylum (such as with oppressed religious minorities) to religion making certain immigrants into targets of the state (e.g., the threats made against Muslims during the presidential campaign, and the likelihood that these will once again lead to threats against Sikhs as well) to providing resources for activism both in support of and against immigrants and refugees.